Beautiful, informative, and appropriate to the audience.



Robin’s-egg blue highlights this account of an American robin family’s year.

Cole uses thin black lines and crosshatching to limn the tree, the tree branch from which a male robin sings in early spring, the responding female, and the nest they build. The first pages are entirely black and white; the first hint of color appears as a blue-washed sky behind the tree as the birds begin their nest; two page turns reveal the familiarly colored egg, its bright color contrasting arrestingly with its black-and-white surroundings. Then there are two, three, four eggs and the mother robin’s patient incubation. After the nestlings hatch, a 12-panel spread shows the adult birds flying back and forth with insects and worms for the babies. First a storm and then a hungry snake provide suspense, but the parents shelter and defend their chicks successfully. Eventually the young robins fledge. “Soon they grow strong and can feed themselves. Their wings take them anywhere they want to go.” Cole varies the design from vignettes and panels to full- and double-page spreads. Sometimes viewers are close up; at other times they see the scenes from a distance. The relatively simple text, expressed in short sentences, is very accessible, and the natural history, ending with fall berries and the overwintering family, is accurate. Aimed at a younger audience than Eileen Christolow’s Robins (2017), this conveys essential information without the other title’s anthropomorphism.

Beautiful, informative, and appropriate to the audience. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288592-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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